© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Flags of NATO member international locations flutter on the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
By Humeyra Pamuk and Robin Emmott
WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Turkey pushed NATO allies into watering down an official response to the compelled touchdown by Belarus of a passenger airplane and the detention of a dissident journalist on Sunday, two diplomats conversant in the matter advised Reuters.
NATO’s 30 allies launched a two-paragraph assertion on Wednesday condemning the forcing down of a Ryanair flight to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich however didn’t embrace any punitive steps that Baltic allies and Poland had pressed for.
The assertion was additionally much less strident than NATO Secretary-Basic Jens Stoltenberg’s public remarks. He referred to as the incident a “state hijacking” and “outrageous”.
Ankara insisted that any point out of assist for extra Western sanctions on Belarus, and requires the discharge of political prisoners there, can be omitted of the textual content, the 2 diplomats stated. Language threatening a suspension of NATO’s cooperation with Belarus was additionally eliminated, they added.
Turkey’s motives weren’t instantly clear.
Diplomats stated Ankara could be attempting to protect ties with Moscow, Belarus’ closest ally, and preserve financial relations with Belarus by way of Turkish Airways, which has each day flights to Minsk. One other risk might be Turkey’s keenness to welcome Russian vacationers this summer season after the COVID-19 pandemic.
A spike in coronavirus infections final month and a flurry of international journey warnings have worn out many early bookings and raised prospects of one other misplaced vacationer season for Turkey, which depends on the money influx to fund its heavy international debt.
The Turkish international ministry didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
A NATO official stated: “The assertion by the North Atlantic Council on Belarus was agreed by all 30 Allies by consensus. We don’t go into the main points of discussions within the North Atlantic Council, that are confidential.”
One of many diplomats stated Stoltenberg had gained the settlement of all allies, together with Turkey, for the ultimate textual content, printed on NATO’s web site, to keep away from additional public divisions.
Turkey’s insistence on a watered-down textual content upset a lot of allies, significantly Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, which had pushed for harder wording, the diplomats stated.
A 3rd diplomat stated Ankara’s pushback was primarily aimed toward utilizing a unique wording to that of the European Union, which detailed proposals for sanctions. These included a ban on the overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airways, stopping Belarusian airways from utilizing EU airports and calling on EU airways to keep away from Belarus.
Turkey will not be an EU member, although it has been a candidate for a few years.
“Many allies have been very annoyed with Turkey. It was essential for NATO to reply and it isn’t clear why Ankara ought to wish to defend (Belarusian President Alexander) Lukashenko,” stated a European diplomat current on the dialogue.
Turkey has turn out to be a harder accomplice in recent times for some NATO allies, clashing with France over Turkish coverage in Libya, with the USA on Syria and with Greece over vitality rights within the Mediterranean.
Turkey has additionally purchased air defence missiles from Russia, which NATO says is an adversary attempting to destabilise the West.
The USA and European Union have criticised what they see as a slide in the direction of extra authoritarian rule below President Tayyip Erdogan, particularly since a failed 2016 coup.
However Turkey, which has the second largest navy in NATO and is in a strategic location between Europe and the Center East and with coasts on the Black and Mediterranean Seas, is just too huge and essential for the EU or the USA to disregard.
Ankara has stated repeatedly it helps NATO however that it has the appropriate to pursue its personal sovereign international coverage.